Sunday, June 15, 2008

Attempted Subordinate Court Escape: Better Humans not Systems

“It shouldn’t have happened” and “human error” have become popular phrases by high level ministers these days. We first heard them from Wong Kan Seng after the Mas Selamat escape and now from K Shanmugan after the attempted escape by 2 individuals charged with robbery.

Unlike Mas Selamat’s escape, the foiled subordinate court escape was apparently not due to poor systems/procedures. I guess I can accept that point. After all, there was nothing wrong this time with the CCTV cameras or the physical structures of the lock-up at the courts. So yes, it was largely down to human error. This view is of course only based on what I know of the incident as reported.

Limiting the movement of accused individuals at the Subordinate court, as proposed by Shanmugan, sounds like a good idea as long as this does not deny them the right to have their case heard in a manner that is not prejudicial to them. Just like flights risk individuals should not be denied medical treatment. If the treatment is not in a public hospital then the standards in a secured facility should not be lacking in quality.

But limited movement is movement nonetheless and thus there will always be opportunities for lapses to occur once again.

Will adding more procedures or systems be the cure-it-all? It really depends as more steps can actually further complicate things and result in confusion or an over reliance on these systems to prevent human error. Each individual may start to rely on another cleaning up potential lapses. Thankfully there was some semblance of system effectiveness in reacting to the attempted escape.

But those that have been to the army will know that no amount of SOP, guidelines or rules can prevent shit from happening. As long as humans are left in charge of executing them, there will always be the chance for mistakes. And this can sometimes be due to “negligence” or “acts of God” beyond our control. Personal errors are not always due to “complacency” as the state-funded press will have you believe.

This is where our million dollar ministers earn their pay check. Apart from formulating strategies and systems of conduct, they also need to invest heavily in proper training and motivation of personnel under their charge. A system is only as good as the sum of all its parts and if the just one component fails, the whole system crumbles.

No comments: